Fox, Daily Caller Mislead On Stand Your Ground To Claim Black Americans "Benefit" From The Law


Fox News and the Daily Caller claimed that Stand Your Ground self-defense laws in Florida "benefit" black Americans, ignoring the fact that fatal shootings with black victims were more likely to be found "justified" than those with white victims, and that black shooters who killed whites were the most likely to be found guilty.

Stand Your Ground laws (Also termed "Shoot First" or Kill At Will) allow individuals who believe their life or safety is in danger to use lethal force in self-defense without being required to retreat in certain situations. Such laws have been passed in more than 20 states, and attained notoriety due to their role in the Florida trial over the shooting of teenager Trayvon Martin. The laws have been found to increase the rate of homicide and have a racially disproportionate impact on black victims that has triggered an inquiry by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. Attorney General Eric Holder questioned the laws while speaking at the NAACP national convention on July 16, suggesting that they encourage "violent situations to escalate in public" and have "victimized too many who are innocent."

Fox & Friends co-host Brian Kilmeade attacked Holder for his comments on July 17, calling the remarks "divisive" and citing the Daily Caller to claim "when it comes to the Stand Your Ground rule ... the law has helped African Americans" in Florida. According to the Daily Caller, black individuals "benefit" from Florida's Stand Your Ground law at a "disproportionate rate" because those who used the defense were successful 55 percent of the time, while white individuals were only successful in 53 percent of cases (including pending cases).

But the data the Daily Caller cited, from The Tampa Bay Times, reveals that contrary to the claim that blacks largely "benefit" or have been "helped" by Florida's Stand Your Ground law, those who killed black people and cited Stand Your Ground got off at a higher rate than those who killed white people. Additionally, a comprehensive review of Stand Your Ground states found that black individuals citing the statute whose victims were white were less likely to go free than any other perpetrators.

For fatal cases that have reached a verdict in Florida, the attack was more likely to be considered justified if the victims were black (78 percent) than if the victims were white (56 percent), according to the Times database.

Research conducted by John Roman, a senior fellow at the Urban Institute's Justice Policy Center, has also suggested that blacks do not necessarily "benefit" from such laws. Roman found that in states with Stand Your Ground laws, "the killings of black people by whites were more likely to be considered justified than the killings of white people by blacks." Roman found that white people were 354 percent more likely to be found justified in killing a black person than another white person across Stand Your Ground states. He found that white shooters with black victims were disproportionately more likely to be found justified in non-stand your ground states as well, but to a lesser extent. 

Graph showing gun homicides ruled justified from 2005-2010

Data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation similarly showed that nationwide, 34 percent of cases involving a white shooter and a black victim were deemed justifiable, while "in similar situations, when the shooter was black and the victim was white, the homicide was ruled justifiable only 3.3% of the time."

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